Conservation reports on the Forster Tomb and the Plaster Plaque have been received from Cliveden Conservation.
The reports detail the history, condition and repair and maintenance needs of each of the monuments. They are formatted to comply with the Church Building Council’s Guidelines for conservation grant applications to meet the requirements for conservation funders in the future. On Project St. Mary’s they will form part of the documentation and estimatations for the renovation of the church.
Extract from report on the tomb’s history:
4.2 Physical History
Little is known about the physical history of the monument. Anecdotally it is said that the arch above partially collapsed onto the monument, damaging the lower part of the effigy of Sir George Forster. The repairs undertaken to remedy the damage to his legs, as well as some remaining damage to the east end moulding is still visible, however, no documentation was found (including a trip to the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division’s library) to supply any more information on this matter, such as the date this event happened.
4.3 Significance of Monument
The monument commemorates Sir George Forster and his wife Elizabeth de la Mare. George Forster of Harpsden (near Henley) was born in 1469. In 1492 he inherited the Aldermaston estate from his wife Elizabeth’s childless brother, Thomas de la Mare, upon his death. In 1501 George was knighted by Henry VII and became Sheriff of Berkshire and Oxford in 1517. In 1525 Sir George was made a Knight of the Bath. Sir George had great wealth and influence at court and was part of Henry VIII’s entourage at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. Elizabeth died in 1526 and Sir George in 1533 and the monument is known to have been erected in the lifetime of Sir George.
Considering Sir George Forster’s wealth and apparent influence it is no surprise that he commissioned a monument from such a talented craftsman to commemorate both himself and his wife. Although it is not known who undertook the commission, there is no disputing the quality of workmanship displayed in the carving and detail, which is quite exquisite. It has been mentioned that the sculptor or mason was one Richard Parker, one of the alabaster men active at the time, but there are no records to support this theory. There is in fact only one documented tomb by Richard Parker from Burton upon Trent. That is the tomb-chest of Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland and his second wife Eleanor Paston, located in St Marys Church, Bottesford. More likely, as the composition and execution are so remarkably similar, is that the Forster monument was undertaken by the same hand as the creator of the Roos monument in the Rutland Chantry Chapel, St George’s Chapel Windsor. It certainly is very similar in style, but unfortunately the sculptor of this monument is also unknown. Incidentally, Lady Roos died in 1526, the same year as Lady Elizabeth Forster.
Plaster Plaque in Forster Chapel
Extract from report on the plaque’s history:
4.2 Physical History
The panel is a plaster-cast from the original marble relief which is on the tabernacle in the church of Or San Michele, Florence. The original was carved in marble 1352-1360 in Florence by the sculptor Andrea di Cione (1343-1368) (also known as Orcagna). The series of reliefs depicting scenes from the life of the virgin are set around the base of Orcangna’s tabernacle.
The Victoria and Albert Museum have sections of the panel that were cast in Plaster in 1864 by Stiattesi Signor. Although it is not known who cast the panel in St Mary’s Aldermaston, or how this panel came to be in the Forster Chapel, plaster casts of this type were being produced and sold in Italy towards the end of the 19th century.